Energy-from-waste Plants

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2011.

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Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on large-scale energy-from-waste plants. (S3O-13276)

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government recognises that the energy-from-waste process has a role to play in the delivery of our zero waste policy, albeit a restricted role.

It must be remembered that the new regulatory measures that we seek to introduce under the zero waste plan will restrict significantly the volume and type of materials that can be processed in thermal treatment plants. It is important, therefore, that we do not go down the road of building large-scale, inefficient energy-from-waste plants, as the materials to feed such facilities will not be available in the future.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The minister might be aware that, in a speech to Parliament on 24 January 2008, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment laid out the Scottish Government’s policies for a zero waste Scotland. He said:

“the Government is opposed to large, inefficient energy-from-waste plants. Such plants could easily become white elephants and drain public funds. They require excessive transportation of waste and could crowd out recycling and waste prevention.”—[Official Report, 24 January 2008; c 5494.]

I very much agree with his statement.

Will the minister reaffirm that the Scottish Government continues to oppose large-scale energy-from-waste plants that are assessed as contradicting Scotland’s zero waste strategy and deemed to be inefficient in the amount of waste that is recycled and in how the energy that they produce is used? Will he confirm that an incoming Scottish National Party Government would continue to oppose such plants?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I am happy to build on my original answer. I reaffirm that the Scottish Government’s position remains that we do not support large-scale, inefficient energy-from-waste facilities. I fully expect that any future SNP Government would maintain that position.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

Given that energy-from-waste plants are one of the least preferred options in the waste hierarchy and that they undermine efforts to reuse, recycle and compost, does the minister agree that the Scottish Government should do much more to limit the percentage of waste that is directed to such plants? Given the minister’s previous answer, will he explain to my constituents why his Government has not chosen simply to say no to Shore Energy’s appeal for the proposed pyrolysis incinerator energy-from-waste plant close to homes, schools and nurseries in my constituency?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

The key message is that only materials that cannot be reused or recycled should go to energy-from-waste plants. Local authorities should avoid committing large tonnages to long-term residual waste treatment contracts, as they might struggle to meet their contractual obligations in the long term, because new measures that will come into force will limit material streams.

As for the debate about Elaine Smith’s local situation, I suggest that she discuss that with her local authority. Where necessary, she can weave in the Scottish Government to help to manage the conversation going forward.